taliban meet china foreign ministry
© China Foreign Ministry handout
The Taliban delegation with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi in Tianjin on Wednesday.
Afghanistan's reconstruction, while demanding that it cuts ties with the East Turkestan Islamic Movement - blamed by Beijing for attacks in its Xinjiang region.

Foreign Minister Wang Yi made the remarks during talks with a nine-member delegation led by the Taliban's chief negotiator and co-founder Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar in the northern city of Tianjin on Wednesday.

It was the first time a senior member of the organisation had visited China since the Taliban's capture of several key districts in Badakhshan and Kandahar provinces. Taliban fighters have taken control of around half the country up to its border with the Chinese region of Xinjiang, and US air strikes continue to support Afghan security forces.

Taliban co-founder Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar
© Agence France-Presse
Taliban co-founder Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar
Wang said the withdrawal of US and Nato troops from Afghanistan represented a failure of US policies and called on the Taliban to push for a role in the peace process.

"The Taliban in Afghanistan is a pivotal military and political force in the country, and will play an important role in the process of peace, reconciliation and reconstruction there," Wang said, according to a foreign ministry statement.

Wang said China would support Afghanistan's sovereignty and territorial integrity, but he also demanded the Taliban cut off any connection with the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM).

"ETIM is an international terrorist organisation listed by the UN Security Council and poses a direct threat to China's national security and territorial integrity," Wang said.

"Fighting ETIM is the common responsibility of the international community and I hope the Afghanistan Taliban will cut ties with terror groups such as ETIM. The Afghanistan Taliban can contribute to an effective crackdown against those groups and play an active role in regional stability and development."

Taliban spokesman Mohammad Naeem said the meetings focused on the political, economic and security issues facing the two nations, as well as the peace process.
xinjiang province

Xinjiang province, Kashgar prefecture, China shares a short border with Afghanistan
He tweeted that the group had assured China that Afghan territory would not be used to threaten the security of other nations, and that China had promised not to interfere in Afghanistan's affairs but to help build peace and solve problems.

The US stepped up air strikes in southern Afghanistan against the Taliban on Sunday, with General Frank McKenzie saying America was prepared to continue if the Taliban offensive did not stop.

The Taliban has called the air strikes a violation of the Doha agreement - the peace deal signed by Baradar with the US in February last year that paved the way for the withdrawal of American troops, due to be completed in late August, and the eventual intra-Afghan negotiations.

Afghanistan and China are also expected to be the focus of talks in New Delhi between US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Indian officials on Wednesday.

Beijing has been closely watching the progress of US troop withdrawals from Afghanistan and sought to play a bigger role in the country. At a meeting with his Afghan and Pakistani counterparts in June, Wang vowed to "bring the Taliban back into the political mainstream" and offered to host intra-Afghan peace talks.

"China's position is that this should be resolved within Afghanistan. And the situation in Afghanistan should not threaten China's security," a source said, naming security in Xinjiang and Chinese investments in the region as some of Beijing's top concerns.

Despite past support for Uygur militants in Xinjiang, the Taliban has said it will not interfere in China's internal affairs China previously hosted the Taliban in 2019, when a nine-member delegation travelled to Beijing and met Deng Xijun, then special representative for Afghanistan.

Yan Wei, an international relations professor at Northwest University in China, said it was necessary for both the Taliban and China to engage each other.

"Regardless of whether the Taliban will become the government, it is a key force affecting the political development and security of Afghanistan," he said.

"The Taliban can constrain some other terrorist organisations in Afghanistan. China can through the Taliban put certain constraints on other terrorist organisations, which is useful for China's security and regional security."
Catherine Wong is a reporter with the South China Morning Post in Beijing, where she focuses on China's diplomacy and defence policy.